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Brothers Michael and Sean Spyres lend their talents – vocal and otherwise – to the Ozarks Lyric Opera. Sean lives in Springfield full time, while Michael spends much of his time in Europe as an opera singer and impresario.
McKenzie Robinson | SBJ
Brothers Michael and Sean Spyres lend their talents – vocal and otherwise – to the Ozarks Lyric Opera. Sean lives in Springfield full time, while Michael spends much of his time in Europe as an opera singer and impresario.

Arts Outlook: Sean Spyres & Michael Spyres

Business Manager and Education Director (Sean), Artistic Director (Michael), Ozarks Lyric Opera

Posted online

 2022 Projection: If the pandemic persists, expect to see a lot more people doing outdoor performances. There will be a lot more innovation with pop-up performances and street musicians.

You see the performing arts as essential, but not everybody does. Convince them.
Sean: We have a lot of beauty here in the Ozarks, but when I drive down Glenstone or Kearney listening to classical music, what I’m seeing – with powerlines and billboards – does not reflect what I’m hearing. The classical arts bring beauty to our lives; that’s purely what they do. They remind us to slow down and enjoy life.

To what end, though?
Michael: People are coming to a crossroads now where they’re needing to take a break from technology, and one of the best ways to do that is to see live performances. It’s a restorative thing, to commune with people. Live performances will never go away because it’s what we’re built to do: We orate, we dance, we play music together. The interesting thing that we are part of in the arts is bringing people back to their humanity.

A lot of arts organizations are struggling now, and some didn’t make it through COVID-19 shutdowns and challenges. What’s your projection for that?
Michael: If we care about the arts as a community, we need more people to step up and be part of them. Businesses especially need to realize that we’re very much a valid commodity for the future of Springfield, especially to travel to.

So, collaboration is pretty important, it sounds like. How are we doing with that?
Sean: I actually feel pretty positive. The Gillioz is going to become our home theater now; talking to (Gillioz Executive Director Geoff Steele), they’re doing great, and he’s super excited to have us as a home company. Springfield is changing; Grant Avenue and other projects are happening downtown. There’s no reason why in 10 years we can’t be closer to an Austin, Texas, model.
Michael: Or Fayetteville, Arkansas. We have that potential. The more we grow, the more the arts will grow as a reflection of that. That’s what we see throughout the U.S. If you’ve got a new, young population, they’re going to want to be entertained.

Opera seems like a pricey proposition. Are patrons stepping up to support you?
Michael: More philanthropists need to realize their money’s not being wasted whatsoever with the opera. The more you get into the operatic world, the more you’ll find it’s a place where new business happens constantly. It’s kind of like the golf course where a lot of people do business. In Europe, everyone goes to the opera to talk business.
Sean: If you talk to people – Springfield Little Theatre, the Springfield Ballet, everywhere else – 2020 was a huge year of giving by private donors. People really stepped up. The missing part of the picture is corporate support. It just doesn’t happen here. Corporate support happens for a lot of great causes, but if you go to other cities the size of Springfield – Des Moines, for instance – you’ll see endowments, corporate sponsorships for tens of millions of dollars. It’s just not here.

Does Springfield have a population that is ready to embrace the arts – particularly opera?
Michael: What we’re trying to do with our company is have this balance of grand opera and small opera to show people opera doesn’t have to be this grandiose, elitist art form that many people think it is. Opera is for everyone, and there’s something in it for everyone. It’s this kind of bouillabaisse of stories that can reflect and change society.

Are the arts endangered by popular culture and the media?
Michael: The arts will not go away – they can’t. They’re this kind of emergent form, especially opera, which combines all of the arts together. They’re a mirror to show society things we should be working on, things that are very poignant for our time. Even if an opera was conceived 400 years ago, we can still feel it.


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